Nothing beats a good interior design to attract people to your properties. While investors might try to avoid hiring interior designers for fear of the costs, Renee Williams and Camille Davis have the guests to convince you otherwise. With experts working with you, you are actually saving more than losing money! In this episode, Christina Wiggins and Liz Brammer share their insights on interior design and how you can apply them to your investment properties. With a similar interest in creating and making things beautiful, Christina and Liz got together and launched CLDesigns Houston in 2019. Ever since, their reputation in the interior design industry has been growing for outstanding service and design excellence in the Houston area. Join this conversation and learn more about designing for your properties and finding designers, as well as how Christina and Liz balance their client's preferences, indecisiveness, and more!
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Interior Design for Real Estate Investors with Christina Wiggins & Liz Brammer
We are welcoming Liz Brammer and Christina Wiggins. They are CLDesigns Houston. Welcome to the show, ladies.
Thanks for having us.
I'm so glad to have you here. Camille has said some wonderful things about you guys, what you do and all of the great designs that you're helping her with. Can you tell us your story and how you guys got started?
It started for me back in high school. I've always had an interest in designing homes. I had a house design software that my dad got for me and I helped him redesign a room in our house because I love doing it and I can spend hours doing it. When I went to college, I decided to go into engineering. I was considering architecture but went a different path. Flash forward to 2018, my husband and I were looking at renovating a house we were in. We were interviewing contractors and tried to find out the design services they provided.
We were looking for like the HGTV experience to have the 3D models and everything so you can visualize everything at once and we weren't finding it. What I did was I got myself some home design software. I taught myself how to use it and came up with a design on my own so that way we could play around with things and see things in 3D like, “Nope, we don't like that. We like that,” and so on.
We did that for one house and then end up buying another house down the street and did the same thing. That's where our project started. I hired a kitchen designer for my house and she saw my drawing. She saw the model. She's older, not versed in computers and was like, “Can you help me out? I'm working on this small house and I would love for you to draw plans for me.”
She became my mentor and taught me how to do it. I learned along the way. I've never done this before but it was a great experience. I put together a whole house plan. It had elevations and a floor plan. It had an electrical plan and all this cool stuff. After that, when the package was done, it was sent to a builder for a bid. When he saw it, he was like, “I love this package. Who did this? I need to call them and find out if they want to do a design for me.” He did. He reached out and this one was a pen-and-paper sketch of what he wanted.
There were no elevations or dimensions on it like, “We want a kitchen. We want a living room. We want four bedrooms.” I had to come up with everything like the elevations and the designs. I pulled Christina in to help me fine-tune all of the cabin elevations, how the outside was going to look and all of that. That project was one of our biggest ones and was super proud of it.
Alongside that, we had friends who had friends who were looking to remodel their house and had no idea what to do. They didn't even know where to start. They just knew they wanted to remodel. They contacted me and said, “Would you be interested?” I was like, “Sure.” That's when I pulled in Christina and we tagged-team the project together. It's taken off from there.
Tell me this, Liz. When you met Christina, did you know right away, “This girl has something special? I know I want to work with her?” How did that connect for you, Christina?
It’s pretty funny but we have very similar stories but in different ways. I grew up in South Texas and my dad owned a contracting company. Very early on, I was used as free labor. I was helping my dad to select colors, tile and backsplash and helping design his homes. He was a drafter so he did the drawings but I would help him with the selections. As his business started to grow, he asked me to help put the houses together like furnishing the homes and picking out the different colors, designs and things.
I got to practice on a lot of spec homes for my dad. What he found is that they sold faster when I did that. He had me continuing to do that throughout high school. I always had a love for design and creating. That's what draws Liz and me together. Fast forward to 2010, a friend of mine asked me. She came over to my home and said, “I like your home. I wish I could do that to my home. Would you let me pay you to help me design my home?” I said, “No, you don't have to pay me. I love doing this. Let me do this for free.” She said, “Absolutely not.”
She decided that she was going to pay me and I remodeled her home. From that one job, people started to see her house and asked if I would do the same for them. It started to grow in that way. It even grew into some commercial properties. I did Roth Financial in Kingwood, Texas. They asked me to design their office building. From that, I also designed an office building in Cyprus called Medisell. It just started to grow. I would often describe what things would look like once it was complete but people had to envision it themselves.
I would describe what I wanted it to look like, the colors, the shapes, the textiles and all of those things but they had to have a vision of what it might look like and they had to trust me on the outcome of the project. Liz and I were neighbors. We shared a similar interest in creating and making things beautiful. We both love HGTV and decorating. During our first time meeting, I was stripping down a table, repainting the table and redoing it. That's how we became friends.
We were neighbors and then friends. That's how we met through the love of remodeling and making things beautiful. When Liz started to design and put her projects on paper, I was in awe of that. I'm like, “The vision is there. It's on paper and people can see it before it's complete,” which is the part that I was missing. I was able to design, choose and select. People were trusting me in making sure that it was going to be beautiful in the end but with Liz, we were able to put it on paper and show it to them in a 3D rendering before they started the project, which was great because then we had both things.
They didn't have to envision anything. It was right there on paper. We could walk them through it. We could even make changes to it if they didn't like something right then and there. Together, we started to do these projects and pour our hearts and souls into some of the things that we were doing for people. It was a hobby but we were able to put our passions on paper. That makes a difference when you're working with people, them being able to see what it is that you can do or what they can do with their homes.
I am floored by the courage to do what you're doing.
Christina has a good eye for design and I've always known that before we even got into this. I would bug her all the time and send her pictures of my house like, “Does this look okay? What color would you recommend?” She was the first person I thought of. That's something that I'm not as strong in. I knew that going into a project, I would need somebody to back me up to be able to do it well. She was the obvious first choice for me.
It's a yin and yang because although I can see the colors and styles, I can envision what it could be. Liz has that same talent where she can walk into a room and envision what it could be. The thing that she does that I don't do well is she can create something out of minimal space. Function-wise, she's very creative when it comes to cabinetry and making sure that there is no space left unturned. We're going to create the necessary storage. Together, we create a pretty dynamic team that can think about every single facet of a design project.
Together, we create a pretty dynamic team that can really think about every single facet of a design project.
Renee, you should see the first time I took them to a house. I have been doing this for quite a while and I found them because my neighbor had her kitchen done. On the 4th of July, we're over there at her house because my kid and her kid love each other. She's like, “You need to come to see my remodel.” I said, “Yes, I would love to see your house.” I go in and she's telling me about this kitchen and what they've done. I was floored like, “Can I please get these people?” She gave me their number. I contacted them right away.
I had a home that we were in the middle of a remodel. We had just bought it. We're going to remodel the kitchen that has this laundry room and a weird pantry. I was thinking, “I'm going to try them out. Let's see how they do.” When I went in that house with these two, I love watching them bounce back and forth off of each other and their ideas that come in.
A friend of mine wants his kitchen remodeled. He's like, “This is a challenging house. It's tiny.” They've been thinking about this for years and what they would do to this kitchen. They walked into his kitchen and brought in ideas that he'd never thought of. He was like, “My mind is blown away.” Every time I go with him, I'm like, “This is so much fun. I love it.”
Even his bathroom was the tiniest little bathroom I'd ever seen. He's like, “Good luck with my house.” He kept saying that. They walked into that bathroom and I thought to myself, “I have no idea what I'd do with this space. There is no space.” I watch the two of them walk in and look around. I watch Christina come around to the outside, into the bedroom and she's like, “What if he did a door right here?” From the bedroom, move a door and she's like, “There's this closet behind here.” Liz is like, “Yeah. We could move this over here.” Liz is already measuring out the space, “There is a vanity here and you could move the things here.”
It was dynamic. It's hard to find partnerships right away and that's why I'm so impressed that you did that. You found this thing that merged and aligned so well. I'm so impressed with the two of you. “Watch out. We're going to be on HGTV.” They're amazing. They make me excited inside. I was like, “I have the full package.” I've been doing this for a long time. I have the workers. I never wanted to be on TV but I'm like, “With these two, we could do that.”
You can feel the energy coming off of me. They thought I was crazy when I first met them. I already knew that they were going to be good but when I saw them and then she brings her computer and you can see it, it is like those TV shows where the picture comes up off the screen, she can rotate it and you can see all these dimensions. It's so amazing.
For those of us who love real estate, real estate design and real estate investing, we're nerding out on all of this. I'm there. I understand what you're saying. I’m super excited about it. Do you guys use a specific type of software? You don't necessarily have to share the brand if you don't want to share it but is it something that requires licensing or certification? What level of expertise do you need to use the software?
I use Chief Architect. You can buy a residential version. That's what I started with. Once I started to get projects, I started the process to get the professional version over a period of time. I've got my license for the product and it's self-taught. I don't have to have a specific license outside of that other than paying for it. You have to teach yourself how to do it. I learned on YouTube, by reading their blogs and playing around with them. I can't even tell you how many hours I've spent on that program. It's a lot but every time I do a project, I learn something new.
She does have a natural talent. The kitchen that I was doing, she's like, “You could take out this pantry because pantries aren't very functional and they don't give you that much space.” She's like, “You can create your custom cabinet here, move your fridge here and move this up around here.” She has spatial knowledge. She goes and measures it out with this laser. I was so impressed. She's like, “How is this corner working over here?”
She looked underneath because she was like, “This shouldn't be working dimensionally with the size and how the measurements were.” I was like, “How do you even tell that?” She looks under the cabinet and it's like this corner niche. It's a weird cut-out corner thing and she's like, “That's how they did that.” I wouldn't even have known. She's great at it and she loves it. Christina is picking and she knows how to do it economically too.
I would always go to Lowe's or Home Depot to buy my stuff and she found all these links on Amazon. She's sending me the lights and the cabinet pulls, the handles for the cabinets. They're affordable. It's probably more affordable than if I went to Home Depot or Lowe's. I was able to ship it directly to my contractor. He was able to go and install the items. They looked great. I don't have to think about it. We will spend so much time trying to design these homes. I'll bring all these different contractors in and say, “What do you think about this?” I get all these ideas from different people. There is so much process that goes into this.
I would say that's one of the hardest. They take out that work for you and then you go in. The workers are like, “I don't even want to do my job anymore without these two.” The workers find it so much easier for them to know what cabinets to order and what size, not getting into a project and then like, “This doesn't work what we thought was going to work because this window is a little too big.” They already figure all that out before they get into it. It's amazing.
I want to talk a little bit about cost savings. Sometimes when we hear things like this, real estate investors try to be frugal. We try to save money and cut corners where we can. What I mean by that is that we will often try to skimp on different things thinking that it's going to save us money in the end. What I'm thinking though is that you're saving people money because when you come in with something so specific, you don't have to worry about waste. I try to pick the cabinets, make sure that the counters fit, make sure that the sill of the window comes up under the cabinet and that there's enough space between the backsplash and the sink.
Why am I trying to figure that out? I should be out looking for my next deal. When I do it and I do it wrong, I've lost labor time and materials. I've wasted money when I could have just paid someone who is an expert to come in and design this for me. In essence, I'm not saving any money. I'm losing money because I'm not using an expert to help me. Can you guys speak to that? Have you seen that where you've been able to save people or help them?
Absolutely. Time is valuable and you're right when you should be out there looking for your next deal not wondering if what you chose as a cabinet size is the correct cabinet size or if you're going to have to have a change order midway through your deal. Time is money when it comes to you doing what you do or flipping or trying to renovate these homes. We have seen that we can save a client a lot of time by making sure that all of these things are correct and making the changes that need to be made prior to starting so you will have fewer change orders.
You will have those things taken care of in advance. Not only that but Liz has gone in mid-project and saved the client time by working with a contractor herself. Talking the contractor through the project making sure that the cabinetry is correct, making sure that the dimensions are right and catching those mistakes before they happen is something that we have done. It works out very well where we've had contractors say, “Liz, will you please come and take a look at this before I move forward,” so that they don't make those mistakes. It works out for them and it works out for the client as well.
Camille's project was the first one we had to be budget conscious for. It was a challenge for us but we asked clients before we start every project what their budget is. We're not going to give them a number but that at least helps us get an idea of how much design we can put in. Do we have to try to reuse cabinets? Can we start over? In Camille's situation, we're like, “We need to try to reuse as much as possible but try to add some design to it.” It was fun to try to come up with. Ultimately, we gave her some ideas that helped her work it through and see if it was going to fit her budget and save her time so she didn't have to think about it. She could work on other things at the same time.
I've done it enough that it was not even just saving me time, it was emotional and mental energy. I could go click the links and buy things. Even my contractors are like, “I don't even want to work without these two anymore because it saves them time and energy. They're not getting a bunch of people out there trying to give them bids. If you have to change in the middle of something, you've already put money in and had time in. It costs you more money. Honestly, they should be more expensive but we'll get there too. They're amazing.
The other thing that you mentioned is the contractors. They're busy too and they're hard to get on site. We can come in, do an initial meeting with clients, come up with a preliminary design and then send it to them in a PDF. They can bid on it without even coming to the house. It saves their time too and you're able to crank out more bids and projects.
It’s because a lot of these contractors have to schedule a whole day to go see projects. It takes so much time going through with the homeowner and what they want but if they can have these to go in, that saves them 2 days or 1 week or whole working days and they can get their guys on site and move quicker. It's so much faster. Also, the time that they take to measure everything and have it all exact.
The contractors will go in with their little tape measure and they'll measure, “The cabinets are this.” They'll draw it out in their notebook but these are exact dimensional drawings. They don't have to come back and be like, “I didn't get enough tile. That tile is out of stock. What are we going to do? We've got this right-hand side next to the bridge that doesn't have any tile that matches. We've got to figure out something else.” All of that stuff takes out so much headache.
Cami, you sound like you've done this before.
I like doing the remodels but honestly, I love finding the deals so much more. If I can streamline this process of the remodel side and the worker or contractor side, flips are intensive. They're the hardest part of the business and everybody wants to do flips. I'm like, “Do you even know how to do flips?” Flips are the most stressful thing you can ever do. You've got all this money out there. I've got two that we've listed and the market is dropping. It's slowing down and here I am stuck in these $300,000 and $400,000 homes that are not selling as quickly.
There's so much that can go wrong and change in a month of everything that I'm like, “I’ll just stick with my subject tos and rentals.” If you can get the process and these women in here to help and these great workers, it's been years of trying to streamline that process. They are the full package. That's so amazing.
Christina and Liz, can you tell me a little bit about the challenges that you're having and the kind of work that you're doing?
We have had a lot of challenges. One of them is to get people to understand the value of our work. Trying to explain what we do and how it would be beneficial to them has been a bit of a challenge. It's one of those things that you’ll see or word of mouth is the best way for people to understand but when we try to explain it ourselves, it's been hard for us to get that message across.
Word of mouth is the best way for people to understand.
Also, we have learned to manage our time a little bit better. Liz, working through the project and us working together, we've learned along the way. Liz said it best when she said we've learned something from every project. Being efficient with our time and designs is something that has been a challenge because we love it so much.
We were spending days working on something because we wanted to make it perfect and as absolute best as we could. We've had to learn to manage our time a little bit more efficiently, make it good, provide them with a project, finish it up and get it done so that they can see it versus tweaking it, thinking about it and recreating it over and over again. That’s been something that we've learned along the way.
Liz, do you want to add anything to that as far as the challenges that you’ve seen?
We have a long list of stuff that we’ve worked through. One thing that we started to do was work remotely with clients. We had one client that was in California and bought a house here in Kingwood. She couldn't be here. We had to find a contractor and then work one on one with him for the quote, get the design together, go to the house and measure and be the eyes for her. We took that project from start to staging. We did the design, worked with the contractor, followed the project and then helped do all of the selections.
We picked all of them and sent her a Word document with all the links. She bought everything. Christina came in and staged at the end. We are learning how to do that. We got very familiar with Zoom and realized how effective that was for us, where it saved us time. I could go in and show everybody my screen so you could see the live view. You can't see the complete design in pictures so it's better to see the whole thing. We learned that.
Another project we're doing is in Florida. My father-in-law's neighbor heard about what we did and was interested because she wanted to redo her whole condo. I happened to be there on vacation and I met her. I showed her what I did and she was super impressed. She's like, “Yeah, let's do it.” Christina and I've been designing her whole condo. I'm about to send her a design package over and then she's going to take it and go use it to hire contractors.
We're learning and evolving. We are trying to figure out how best to work when we're not together. That’s a big one. The thing that worked out with the Florida one is I happened to be there to take all the dimensions. That's the only thing that we'd have to work out but it'd be cool if we can work remotely as long as we have all that data.
These challenges keep coming but instead of saying, “No, we can't do that,” we think about it and we're like, “We can adapt. We can do that. We can change. We can add that to our list of things,” which continues with every project to grow. Pretty much every challenge that's come our way, we've figured it out. That's what we do.
One other big thing that we're learning how to do is of balancing our customer service with what we know is right for the design. You can take that in a bunch of different ways like the placement of things, colors, how big things are and pushing people and when to push people out of their comfort zones. It's client dependent so we're learning when to do it and when to not do it.
Sometimes, we have to show them. A funny story, Cami, when we were working with your neighbor, She was very specific one time when she said, “I do not want the cabinets to go all the way to the ceiling.” That shook our heads and we said, “Okay.” Once we got to work on the project, we tried what she wanted and we were like, “This could look a lot better if we do it differently.” We both thought, “Let's show it to her.” The worst that can happen is that she hates it and we put it to what she wanted but we had to push her out of her comfort zone.
Although we wanted to respect her wishes and make sure that she had everything she wanted, we wanted to show her those things but also push her out of her comfort zone and elevate it a little bit more. She ended up loving it. Her reaction was probably the best reaction we've ever had from a client. We made those changes because we thought it looked a lot better and we felt like it was right for the project.
When we showed her, I remember we were upstairs in Liz's game room. We were nervous to show her because we did something a little bit different with the cabinetry. We sat there. We gave her a glass of wine and showed her the project hoping that she would be okay with it. She saw it and she got chills and started crying. To us, that was a home run. We were so excited that we had done what we did.
She was in awe and said she would've never thought of doing some of the things that we did, which for us, felt like a home run because we did what she wanted but we also pushed her in a way that made her love it even more. That was fun. We're trying to balance customer service but we also want to make sure that we're doing what's best for the space and letting them know that there's more.
She did tell me that. She was like, “I didn't want this to go all the way up to the ceiling.” You extended them down to her back door but these cabinets are beautiful. Also, you ended up extending her pantry out and then encasing her fridge. It's this amazing walk-in. She was blown away and I am too. I'm so blown away by you guys. I see that your challenge with homeowners, in general, is that they don't deal with this every day.
They've never done this before. People get into construction projects and they think it's supposed to go perfectly and it never goes perfectly. Construction is the most unpredictable thing that ever happens. These homeowners have no idea of the work, the things that change, how you're creating so much value for them and how much of a headache it is. They don't understand that.
Also, they don't see the vision after. People don't have that gift to go in there. You two do but people don't have a gift to go in there and say, “This is what it's going to look like when it's done.” No one does that. Liz, you could not find anybody that does that. I'm so excited about this.
Have you guys had any nightmare stories to tell? Do you have one that you can share? Business is like this. Everything's not kittens and rainbows or puppies and unicorns. It gets ugly sometimes. No names but any nightmare stories.
People love horror stories too. There are always these perfect stories and all that but people want to hear the bad stuff too.
It’s because it happens to all of us and it can be very discouraging. When bad things happen and we haven't heard that bad things happen to other people, then we feel like, “It's just me,” but no. That's part of the business journey. The entrepreneurial journey is you're going to have nightmare contractors, clients, properties and projects that you’re like, “I want this one over.”
Someone wanted me to talk about the worst thing that had ever happened to me, where I lost $100,000 on a flip. People loved that more. Not that they loved that I failed but they loved that I failed and I was still successful later and that I continued to do it. People liked that more than my success stories and I was surprised because then they related to it.
We all have failures but we have to pick ourselves up and keep going. With that said, do you guys have anything that you can share? No names.
Yes, we have a few things. It doesn't work out 100% perfectly every time. There are a lot of factors involved when we're doing these remodels and there are a lot of decisions to be made. This has happened a couple of times when we create a project. This is very specific with dimensions. We work hard to make sure that everything is right before we hand over a design to a client. Sometimes clients like to make changes midway with the contractor.
I would say probably more because you get in there and you pull out a wall like, “This looks way different than I thought it would.” I'm sure they change more.
When those changes start to happen, the first thing that happens is they'll call us and say, “This doesn't look right. These things don't measure up. This countertop looks horrible.” We'll recognize that they've altered the design in itself and run into problems but if you would've stuck to the project and the actual design, it would've worked out fine. When they start making those changes, sometimes things don't work out the way they want them to.
It reminds me of the first home that we remodeled. We picked paint for the outside. Luckily, it wasn't the whole outside but we went to the house. Both me and Kyle looked at each other and thought, “That is horrible.” It's because it looks different in the store and on the outside of the house than it did on the paint swatch. On the paint swatches, it looked great and we put it up to the house.
We got it on the wall and the lighting outside. We had to repaint it. That happens and people don't realize that. If you get a clear tile from a backsplash and you have a gray countertop, the clear tile looked gray when we put it on as the backsplash. We thought, “We did not want a gray-black splash,” because it's reflecting off of the gray countertop. Stuff like that happens that no matter how much you try, you're not going to be able to change.
My worst nightmare is always grout. I can't tell you how many times we've had a grout issue. If people would let me select the grout for them because I think we've made all the wrong choices so we know how to make the right choice, I'll tell you the grout is never right.
It’s because by the time it dries, it's a different color than what it looks like when it's wet.
It's been an issue in my home. Remodeling my home, I let my husband make a decision and I should not have but I was trying to spread the wealth with the decision making but the grout color is always an issue with clients. I make sure to stress if I help with selections, please let me help you choose the grout color because if not, it will not be right. We'll get a phone call saying, “It looks horrible. It's the wrong color.”
It's a very expensive change. Also, messy. To add to what we're talking about, another challenge we've had is how to manage indecisiveness. We can show a client a design and then love it and then a couple of days later come back and say, “I don't like any of this. You need to redo it.” I have that happen pretty much throughout the entire project. It was very challenging to work with.
I'd imagine for real estate investors, it would be super expensive as well. Change orders cost money. Every time you change something, you're putting more money into the project than you could have in your pocket. You need to limit your change orders.
We realize as designers, they're hiring us because they don't know and they're looking for help but at some point, I don't know if it's something that we can help them with but they have to learn to trust our decision and recommendation to help.
Liz and I have to work together sometimes to help convince the client that what we're putting out there is probably the best for them. Sometimes, we'd come to a client and say, “I understand you want this wall here but let me tell you why you shouldn't do that.” We have to explain it to them and we hate to disagree or do something out of what they wanted, out of their scope but sometimes we know it's what's best for the project and we have to relay that message across to clients.
Although it's been a challenge, we're getting better at being able to say, “I understand that you want this wall gone but let me tell you why you need to keep this wall here because of XYZ.” There's learning that has happened on our part on how to talk to the clients and let them know that we understand that they want these specific things but what we're putting out there is something that we've thought through. It's what's best for the project and probably would give them the best return for their money.
Let's talk on a practical level about working with real estate investors specifically because that is pretty much who our audience is. It's not necessarily homeowners as much as it is business owners or real estate investors. What's the best way for an investor to engage with a designer? Let's say they're not in Houston but they're reading this episode and they're like, “I'm gleaning something from this. I could use the help of a designer to take me out of that, get more specific dimensions and save some money.” What should a real estate investor be looking for when they hire a designer like you two?
What they should be looking for is somebody willing to listen and build a relationship with that client to get the best product at the very end and the best return for their money. To me, that's probably the most important part. For example, when Cami came to us, she had a project. Some of her needs were different from some of the clients that we had had in the past. Cami was looking to make something beautiful, yet save money and also save time. We had to listen to what she needed and make some adjustments to what we did.
We came up with some solutions such as, “Cami, let's share a document and I'm going to give you links to all of the things that you'll need to purchase for your home so you can do that quickly and efficiently.” Also, making sure that the dimensions and shapes that we were creating in the kitchen were affordable, which is not always what clients want. Everybody has different needs but we have to listen to their needs, do what's best for them and help them be successful with their flips.
On the investor side, the cool thing was I didn't know that they would even work with investors because homeowners are a whole different game. A couple of the contractors had worked directly with those homeowners and it's about making their homes beautiful and over the top beautiful. I need to make my home beautiful but not over-the-top beautiful. It only needs to sell and look nice. They were great at doing that.
With Christina’s experience with her father and doing flips, she had that side. I was impressed that they could do that. As the investor coming in, I loved also that they had three different levels. They said, “Here's a base level. This is going to be your cheap option. They had another level and they said, “This level is going to be a little more expensive but here's your option.” Here's the top level and they gave me the top one.
I can then go in and say, “Putting this $10,000 in is going to help me.” Putting this $15,000 in, I could balance that and say, “Is this going to change the sales price of my home? Am I going to put this in and it's going to still sell?” I was impressed that they could work with investors and these homeowners. They're great at being flexible, changing contractors and working with different clientele. That would be a challenge and they're great at modifying that. Also, Christina speaks Spanish. That's a huge bonus in Texas working with contractors. That is amazing.
That's good to know as an investor that I can have that level of service from a designer. Liz, do you consider yourself an interior designer or are you more of an architectural design specialist? What are your titles?
We are evolving as we go. I would call myself a house designer. Christina and I do tag team on design elements and colors sometimes but I say what I'm best at is doing the floor plans, space planning and coming up with cabinet design. That's more of the house designer/kitchen designer route. I'm not an officially licensed one but I am training with the kitchen designer that worked with me on my house. I'm training with her and eventually, I want to get certified to be a national kitchen and bath designer so I can have that title. I would go more that route for me.
Also, the engineer's architectural background that she has, her mind is measurements, shapes and putting shapes together. You have to have both.
The funny thing about that is when Christina and I are designing, I'll be like, “How big do you want something? Show me.” I put our hands up. I want this big and I'll look at it like, “12 inches.” It's like our minds work differently but mesh very well.
I'll say something like, “I need hardware to be about 25 inches.” She'll be like, “That's about 8 inches. Let's draw that in. From here to here is what I need.” She understands me, translates it and puts it into the design.” I'll say, “I need this nightstand to be this high.” She'll look at it and say, “I got you.” She'll then draw it in.
That's fantastic that you're able to work together in such a way that this partnership is humming along. Can we talk about outside of work? Do you spend time together? Are you best friends in addition to working or is this just a business partnership? Do your families hang out? How does the non-business relationship work?
This is the hardest thing to do to find a team but you just did it generically in a way. Explain that side.
That's a fun topic because we don't reflect on that a whole lot. Liz and I used to be neighbors. Before that, we did not know each other at all. In about 2013, Liz and I became neighbors. We started a friendship again based on like, “Will you share that chalk paint recipe with me?” I'm like, “I'll share that with you.” Also, by sharing projects that we were working on in our homes, we became friends.
Our husbands are very good friends and they hang out together. I love Liz's children. We spend a lot of time together and she spent a lot of time with my children as well. As far as our friendship outside of this job, our kids know each other well. Our husbands get along well. We spend a lot of time outside of our job. When we get to work together, it's business but when we are not doing business, we spend a lot of time together. We have girls’ nights. We're constantly trying to balance the work hard and play hard situation.
I have my best friend from college here in the neighborhood and Christina has two friends from college. Christina and I connected and we brought the entire group together. There are 8 or 10 couples and everybody hangs out all the time. All of the girls annually go on a girls’ trip. In 2022, we went to Nashville. We're all pretty close.
That is awesome that you guys have that in your relationship. How are you balancing family and work? It sounds like it's working out that you're able to put work aside and have a work-life balance. Is that happening?